With a depth of perception that’s both affectionate and insightful, Ford tells the stories of his parents’ lives and deaths by turn ... It’s through this innate desire to know, paired with Ford’s exceptional abilities as a prose craftsman, that these two ordinary people are made vital and vivid to us on the page. His depictions and examinations of his parents before and after he was born — their mannerisms and bearings, their wounds and silences, their squabbles and pleasures — offer a master class in character development and narrative economy ... There’s a vulnerability that I’ve not observed in Ford’s work before, a tender surrender to the search. What makes this book so moving is, in part, Ford’s glorious engagement with the unknowable that we, paradoxically, come to memoir for — it’s only in fiction, after all, that a writer has the luxury of omniscience, of being the god of the who, how, when, where, what and why.
The effort to create a presence is signaled by a plethora of conditionals: One paragraph contains the word 'must’ve,' 'might’ve,' and 'could’ve,’ with the emphasis on 'must' indicating how hard the writer is working to give his subject life. It has the effect of making Ford’s portrait of his father more interesting than that of his pretty, lively Catholic mother, even though the details of Edna Ford’s life are much more richly filled in. The book’s most vivid writing imagines what it was like before Ford was born, when Parker and Edna traveled together on the circuit, teaching young women how to make starch and use it ... Between Them is, designedly, not 'great literature,' and is content rather to provide an honest recording of two 'wonderful' if ordinary parents.
Part of the intermittent charm of this memoir is its restoration of that deleted era, a contemplative delving into what now seems antiquity ... At just 175 pages, spattered with 'I don’t know' and 'I’m not sure,' Between Them is a wisp of a book. It 'might seem incomplete or lacking,' Ford says, and it certainly does ... At its strongest, with simply etched sentences and slow stabs of wisdom, this memoir conjures Rock Springs, Ford’s faultless 1987 story collection...At its weakest, though, Ford’s prose mopes with at-hand utterances ... he has attempted a gentle reckoning here, his own exertion of mercy and mourning — his parents breathe in him still — and the attempt alone makes a loving homage.